This Liturgy of the Word was prepared for use in our 2019 Mary of Magdala Celebrations, "Lifting Up Voices that Challenge." If you plan to reuse these excertps for your own purposes, please credit the original source, which is included with each reading.
LEADER: Let us pray, We give you thanks, O God, that in every generation You have raised up prophets and truth tellers. These voices that challenge call us as Church and society to conversion and reconciliation. As when Mary of Magdala first proclaimed the Resurrection, you have given their words power: power to move us from despair to hope, from grief to healing, from fear to courage, from death to new life.
And so we pause once more, this day, to listen to these prophets and truth tellers as their stories instruct and inspire, their cries for justice and inclusion call us to conversion, and their dreams and visions give us hope for a world made new.
ALL: Open our ears to hear voices that challenge; Open our eyes to see the possibilities and obstacles in our midst; open our hearts to love a new Church, a new world into being. We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Word made flesh. AMEN.
Suggested Sung Response for Each Reading
refrain from Voices that Challenge by David Haas or verse 2 of Open My Eyes by Jesse Manibusan
Emma Gonzalez, Parkland student and March for Our Lives Organizer, challenges us to stand against gun violence and school shootings.
This started with, has been about, will always be for, all of us.
And who are we?
We are the people who died in the freshman building on Valentine’s Day at Douglas High, and the people who died in every mass shooting in U.S. history.
We are everyone who has been shot at, grazed or pierced by bullets, terrorized by the presence of guns and gun violence in America.
We are kids, we are parents, we are students, we are teachers.
So we are speaking up for those who don’t have anyone listening to them, for those who can’t talk about it just yet, and for those who will never speak again.
We are grieving, we are furious, and we are using our words fiercely and desperately because that’s the only thing standing between us and this happening again.
Melissa Cedillo, a church reformer, challenges an all-male hierarchy
#MeToo has empowered survivors to come forward, and forced abusers to face consequences. Therefore, we should use the strengths of #MeToo to shed light on how to respond to the despair in our Church...
Thoughts and prayers from bishops will not suffice. Neither will bishops who downplay this crisis or aim to defer the conversation to homosexuality...
With the number of victims identified in Pennsylvania at least 1,000, there is clearly a need to rethink how the Church is structured; in fact, to not do so would be a sin.
I urge the Church to rethink the all-male hierarchy. Consider the ways in which toxic masculinity is hurting our Church. One has to wonder if this abuse would have been kept quiet had there were women weaved into this hierarchy.
Imagine a Church where a true representation of what the Church looks like is present in its leadership. Scripture refers to Wisdom as “She;” envision a Sunday where we hear the female voice of Wisdom...
The Church has reached a pivotal moment where it will either become more proactive or limit itself to reacting as each new crisis unfolds. How the Church proceeds will determine its future moral authority.
Shannen Dee Williams, a Catholic historical theologian, challenges the church to stand with people of color
Our faith is based on the belief in the death and resurrection of a brown social revolutionary who was put to death by the state for declaring with his words and actions that the lives of the poor, marginalized, and dispossessed matter.
If the U.S. Catholic Church, and indeed the global Church, cannot collectively respond to the ever expanding #BlackLivesMatter movement in an uncompromisingly supportive and radical way, then the Church (in its present structure) is DEAD. But I do not believe that the Church is yet dead.
Prayers, statements, and pastoral letters are important, but grossly insufficient… the U.S. Church…must finally become like Jesus.
We must collectively shout with our words and actions (in whichever ways that they manifest themselves) that the broken bodies and lives of the escalating number of victims of police and state violence are fundamentally more important than damaged property.
If we can’t do that, then the Church will risk losing whatever moral authority and legitimacy it has left, and we will once again be lost in the wilderness.
Deacon Ray Dever, whose daughter is transgender, challenges recent statements about LGBTQ Catholics
Like many LGBT individuals struggling with the decision to come out, [our transgender daughter] was faced with what seemed like an unsolvable dilemma: Either continue to deny who she really was or come out and risk losing her entire world of family, friends, and faith. This inner battle drove her to consider suicide.
The overly simplistic, often negative message about LGBT individuals from the church that was so important to her upbringing only served to aggravate that situation.
When I hear pronouncements about an “ideology of gender,” they simply do not ring true for me. The only choice that transgender individuals make is whether or not to embrace who they are and live their lives openly as their authentic selves in the face of the rejection, discrimination, bigotry, and even violence that they know they may have to endure.
We as a church need to do some serious self-examination and to take responsibility.
I’ve heard warnings about falling into the sin of trying to replace the creator. Are we guilty of that sin when we look at a transgender person and have the hubris to deny who God has made?
I pray that the church will be open to learning and embracing the truth about transgender individuals who have the same inherent value and dignity as all human beings. Perhaps we all need to have a little more humility and a little more faith in who God has created.
Norma Pimentel, director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, challenges the family separation policy at the border
The ‘caravan’ is a group of families who are coming together to try to keep themselves safe because crossing through Mexico and other countries is not very safe.
We hear a lot of things that make people afraid of the caravan. But the reason the caravan exists -- why families come to the United States -- is because they fear for their families and hope that they can find protection in the United States.
What I know of the people who come from Central America is they are families and children who are desperate to find relief and protection.
Let me tell you a story about one of the separated families that we welcomed:
They were separated for over a month. As I was walking with a child and her mother to a room to go to sleep, and the child turns and tells me, “today, I am not going to cry.” I said, “what do you mean?” She said, “I have been crying every single day since I was separated from my mom – over a month. And tonight I am sleeping with mom.”
I don’t know how we can be a part of hurting a child that way.
Our policies are causing the pain.
The administration is enforcing policies that are not humane for the families.
Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ challenges the use of the death penalty:
When you accompany someone to the execution, as I have as a spiritual advisor, everything becomes very crystallized, distilled, and stripped to the essentials.
You are in this building in the middle of the night, and all these people are organized to kill this man.
And the gospel comes to you as it never has before:
Are you for compassion, or are you for violence?
Are you for mercy, or are you for vengeance?
Are you for love, or are you for hate?
Are you for life, or are you for death?
On death row I grasped with such solidity and fire the grace of God in all human beings, the dignity in all human beings.
I am not saying that Patrick Sonnier was a hero. I do not want to glorify him. He did the most terrible crime of all. He killed.
But he was a human being, and he had a transcendence, a dignity.
He—like each of us—was more than the worst thing he had done in his life.
Prejean, Helen. “Would Jesus Pull the Switch?,” Salt of the Earth, 1997
Dr. Sylvia Hood Washington, an environmental science researcher, challenges Catholics to work for climate justice:
Our way of living is costing human beings their lives.
We need to embrace the truth that we have limited resources. We now live on a planet that has been compromised for everyone, rich and poor, black and white.
We have to absorb the fact that if we don’t change our ways, we will destroy the planet for the next generation and the generation after that. Within 100 years there may be very few people who can survive this planet above ground.
Catholics are not supposed to just go to church and sit there doing rosaries and adorations. That’s not what our faith is all about. We’re called to mission. That’s what’s scarier, because it’s hard to leave our comfort zone.
Don’t purposely stay ignorant and don’t cling to someone because they’re telling you that you don’t have to change your way of life.
We need to educate ourselves, accept the truth, and act on that truth.
Gospel: John 20:1-18